While I'm so sorry you've had to go through so much, it's wonderful you're brave enough to share your story and I'm so very thankful that you've posted all this information.
Until the last few years, I didn't realize nor recognize that I've had anxiety issues all of my life. What I did know what that I had irrational, unexplainable, unpredictable bouts of freezing up and sobbing uncontrollably. Some strange, seemingly random issues as well, like being unable to answer the phone (what if it's bad news?) or even being unable to make a call to pay a bill or even to visit with a family member. It was like I was spending 90% of my life running around as an emotional time bomb with a chronic case of stage fright.
I wish someone had pulled me aside as a kid or young adult and told me I had anxiety issues, not that I was a pathetic crybaby. I always believed the latter and felt ashamed I couldn't control myself. And thus I'd pour over every bad event and mistake made in my life over and over again, wishing things could have been different, wishing I didn't feel like so much was beyond my control, and not understanding that the patterns were breakable.
I was molested throughout my childhood by my grandfather and carried the shame of that for years, not realizing that I was the victim. My middle brother and cousin were killed in a car accident as teenagers, when I was still in junior high. I became severely asthmatic and gained a lot of weight as a preteen. My mom always blamed the asthma meds on that, but looking back there was a lot more going on. I literally didn't have one single friend throughout junior high and cried myself to sleep every night. I know that's when I really started eating, possibly to relieve all the growing anxieties I was facing. And I spent a lot of time longing for the "good old days" when I was only 12 years old!
I was an older teenager when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She and I moved moved out of state to be with her mother for treatments, and I was her primary caretaker as she was dying. I stopped functioning altogether for about a year after we lost her. I eventually started working, but my anxieties often got in the way and I definitely lost jobs because of it. I'd compare the feeling to clinging to a buoy out in the middle of the sea, unable to swim and unable to see land. I constantly felt lost, overwhelmed, and scared, clinging desperately to the familiar in fear of drowning in the unknown.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression, but for some reason my anxieties never came up. I went to therapy for several months, until I couldn't afford it anymore because my anxieties were too severe to fill out the paperwork for the sliding discount. Oh, the irony.
I eventually got wrapped up in a relationship (my very first one ever at age 25) and moved out of state with the guy, but that ended up being emotionally abusive. It already felt my life was crumbling around me when my dad died . . . I was smoking how many packs a day and was binge drinking (unbeknownst to outsiders), plus I had eaten my way up to 360 pounds (the one thing I couldn't hide). I only had one immediate family member left (my oldest brother) and after he attacked me with some horrid accusations during the planning of our dad's funeral arrangements I felt completely disowned. I felt abandoned, trapped, fat, worthless, ugly, and unable to do anything about it all.
There's much more but you get the idea. Things turned around though! I'm in a stable, loving relationship right now with my husband, but moving to yet another new area and adapting to so many changes had taken its toll on me (we'd met online). I'd always loved to drive but became fearful of it; I was unable to go out, to work, to make friends. I've had to very slowly expand my comfort zone and am still in the process. One of my biggest steps to getting better both physically and emotionally was joining a local TOPS chapter, which was very difficult in the beginning; sometimes I'd drive all the way over but would be unable to force myself out of my car and attend because my anxieties had frozen me. But it was my first major step back into getting social and having some sort of sense of independence again. I was eventually linked to an article about agoraphobia and immediately recognized my experiences within, and later I started reading about generalized anxieties. I've never been officially diagnosed but it all makes sense and was such a relief to finally have a basic idea of what was wrong. I hit a breakthrough last year when I started taking B vitamins in hopes of gaining more energy for my weight loss efforts, and instead found that it eased my anxieties! I did some reading on that and found that it can help with the nervous system. Not exactly a cure, but it's been a major boost for me and it's something that may be worth a try for you if you haven't already.
I think the healthier eating worsened my anxieties for a while, because I was no longer allowing myself to fall back on food in order to distract them away (I've already long given up the drinking and smoking, thankfully). I still have days where I want to eat and eat and eat, but I refuse to let myself. I think keeping the food journal has helped me put the brakes on that, and perhaps the physical act of writing in it has become sort of a substitute. At the very least, it helps me feel in control. I've made so much progress in the past few years (I can drive again, yay!) but still have a lot of room for improvement.
I'd never known about the ruminating and I'm so thankful to read about it now; I definitely recognize it and will take the time to work on healthier patterns that should help me live better in the present. I think I got a glimpse of those issues late last year; it's long and complicated but I was getting in contact with my brother's kids again through facebook (we used to be quite close until my Dad died and my brother freaked out on me). When their mom (my brother's ex) caught wind of me trying to sort out some family legal issues that would not be in her benefit, they (as in the kids) all unfriended me. I was heartbroken when none of them would return my messages. I still visited their pages frequently to see any new photographs they'd post, and I pretty much lost it when I found out the oldest was pregnant and realized the reason I was never told was because I'm simply not a part of their lives anymore. I was telling a friend about how painful it all was, and she told me I simply need to stop visiting those pages because all I'm doing is torturing myself. And something clicked there, because I do that with nearly everything in my life, revisiting the painful things only to wallow in it rather than learn from it. I think reading more about ruminating will help me understand these bad patterns and why they need to be broken, because I do have all sorts of negative, what-if thoughts incessantly running through my head, making daily life much more difficult than it needs to be . . . we simply need to stop torturing ourselves over things that are beyond our control and instead focus on the things that we can
control: what we can improve upon and what we already have to be thankful for.
Once again, thank you so much for posting all of this, it's given me a lot to consider and I believe I now have more tools to reshape my life for the better. It sounds like you do as well!
Take care and good luck to you!